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County to consider civic center contract extension with Fair Association

By CHUCK BALLARO - | May 28, 2021

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners is expected to extend the contract between the county and the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association by one year.

The Fair Association requested a one-year extension to the current Management Agreement for the Lee County Civic Center on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers. This fourth amendment to the Management Agreement would extend the term of the agreement until Oct. 1, 2022.

“At this time, staff is recommending the Board approve a one-year extension to the agreement with the Fair Board. The discussion topics Tuesday may also include directing county staff to conduct a structural analysis of the facility. The intent would be to bring that analysis back to the Board and present it at a meeting that would be open to the public,” said Deputy County Manager Dave Harner in a statement.

The Fair Association has operated the Civic Center and the fair since 1996. In 2000, the BOCC entered into a 20-year agreement allowing the Fair Association to begin long-range plans for continued improvements.

The contract has been amended three times. The first was in 2007, which required the Fair Association to deposit one third of the parking proceeds into an interest-bearing savings account with the principle and interest to be used toward future major improvement projects at the civic center.

A second amendment was added in 2011 to facilitate the sale, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages, and in 2020 the board approved the third amendment to extend the term of the agreement for one year.

In a companion measure, a public hearing item will seek to authorize a cancellation of an Invitation to Negotiate that was advertised for the solicitation of proposals to develop and/or manage the Lee Civic Center and provide authorization to the Procurement Director or designee to execute the Notice of Cancellation for public posting.

This cancellation is being requested to reassess potential uses.

An evaluation meeting was held on March 5 at which the evaluation committee discussed the submittals received in accordance with the solicitation requirements.

One of them was from Kitson & Partners, who developed Babcock Ranch. They proposed to buy the 100 acres on which the civic center stands and, with 62 acres it owns adjacent to the site, to build a large-scale development off Bayshore Road where it ends at State Road 31.

“It sounds like they’ve decided to punt for a year, which is understandable in a pandemic situation. We responded to the Invitation to Negotiate and support whatever direction they go in,” said Lisa Hall, spokesperson for Kitson & Partners. “We have a vested interest in ensuring whatever is done there adds value to the region and we thought we could be a partner in that.”

Hall said there isn’t much the county can do with the main building, since the bleachers are condemned and the entire building is aging.

The BOCC meets Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Commission Chambers in the Old Courthouse at 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers.